The Low Carb Jumpstart


Tips and Tricks For Low-Carb Eating on the Road

It can be difficult to maintain a low carbohydrate lifestyle when work requires you to be on the road. Don’t let that stop you from putting yourself first and maintaining the goals you’ve set for yourself. With a little planning, eating healthy while on the go can be managed.

1. Bring a cooler.  Starting your route with a cooler pack of nutritious items will get you going on the right track. Research has shown that creating a plan and preparing ways to maintain goals promotes greater success and well-being. Keeping refrigerated items on hand such as veggies, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, plain Greek yogurt, and dressings can help you add variety to your meals and snacks.

You may also want to invest in a compact cooler. This article from Forbes Wheels includes their top picks of electric coolers that are made specifically for vehicles.

2. Prepare healthy snacks.  Keeping snacks available with you can help you stay energized and reduce food cravings. Create your own low-carb trail mix, celery and peanut butter combo, or keep a bag of sunflower seeds on hand so that when you start to feel hungry, you can reach for a snack that you feel good about. Follow the framework below to create your favorite low-carb trail mix.


Walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios



Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax, chia



Unsweetened coconut, 80% dark chocolate, cheese crisps

3. Investigate food labels.  For times when you need to stop for a snack, compare food labels to snack smart. Keep in mind that protein and fiber will help you feel full longer. Check out the American Diabetes Association website to get more familiar with nutrition facts labels.

4. Make low-carb swaps at fast food restaurants.  Opt out of the bun when ordering sandwiches, add veggies, and ask for the sauce to come on the side to stay in control of the carbohydrates that you’re eating. Refer to the table for ideas to make low-carbohydrate substitutions when eating at fast food restaurants.

BunLettuce Wrap
Side of RiceSide of non-starchy vegetables (salad, broccoli, green beans, etc.)
Side of FriesSide of Coleslaw
Side of ChipsSide of celery / carrot sticks

5. Stop at gas stations with refrigerated food items.  Oftentimes gas stations will sell nutritious low-carb items in the refrigerated section such as boiled eggs, string cheese, deli meat, pickles, olives, and low-carb shakes. Shelf-stable items such as jerky, tuna packets, nuts, and pork rinds can be added for a greater variety. It may be helpful to know which gas stations offer a greater selection of foods when it’s time for a pit stop.

cup of coffee

6. Staying caffeinated.  Whether you enjoy a steaming cup of coffee in the morning, or need an afternoon pick-me-up, caffeine can be really handy on those long drives. At gas stations, check nutrition labels on ready-made coffee, tea, and energy drinks to make sure they are low in sugar.

Drinks labeled “unsweetened” or “sugar-free” are good choices. If you’re stopping by at a coffee shop, swap common additions like milk for heavy whipping cream and regular syrups for sugar-free varieties. Pro-tip: At Starbucks, you can order a ‘low-carb’ Flat White by replacing milk with a blend of ½ heavy cream and ½ water steamed to perfection!

Pro-tip: At Starbucks, you can order a ‘low-carb’ Flat White by replacing milk with a blend of ½ heavy cream and ½ water steamed to perfection!

7. Invest in a large reusable water bottle.  Having a water bottle allows you to stay hydrated and can help with satiety. Consider stopping at a rest area to enjoy a snack and stretch your legs. Moving your body will help you feel energized and having a water bottle handy will help quench your thirst.

8. Know your limits.  If you know that entering a gas station will tempt you to buy a snack you’ve been trying to avoid, then don’t enter the building unless you must. If stopping at a particular restaurant will likely cause you to purchase a meal that goes against your goals, then consider choosing a different restaurant. Choose restaurants that make it easy for you to make healthy choices or healthier substitutions.

Written by Dietetic Intern, Annie Sheltrown, MPH. University Of Michigan, School of Public Health.